"I feel as if I was inside a song"The Presence of Music in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth and Songs and Poems set to Music

The Presence of Music in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth and Songs and Poems set to Music

As noted previously, the Orcs are one of the few races using percussive instruments, going in line with their very percussive singing style (“Clap! Snap! the black crack!”, H, 72). Drums are used for communication and seem to have some signal value, too, as can be seen in the Mines of Moria: The “drums in the deep” evidently tell the Orcs the exact location of the Fellowship and organize the battle plan. Steimel also mentions the use of shields and spears as a means to produce percussive sounds on the battlefield. Orcs evidently also used some form of trumpets: At the beginning of the attack on Helm’s Deep, “brazen trumpets sounded” (LotR, 533). We do not of if those were played by Orcs, since there were also men from Dunland present on the enemies’ side, but it is possible. While none of these uses constitutes a proper musical performance, the song from the Hobbit confirms that Orcs have music, so it is likely that they would also have some sorts of instruments to accompany their songs. Why a race like the Orcs, bred artificially for the pure goal of being soldiers and going to war, with no regular social life given, develops any form of song or even instrumental music must be attributed to the influence of music in Arda in general. By originating from the Elves, the Orcs literally have it in their blood and even Melkor’s perversion was not fully able to overcome the inherent workings of the world.

Of all the non-human music, Entish music is probably the most interesting, because it is described as having the sound of instruments – Tolkien speaks of sounds “like a very deep woodwind instrument” (LotR, 463), “like a discord on a great organ (LotR, 466) and “solemn drums” (LotR, 484). The only other occurrence of sounds that are instrument-like, but actually are not produced by real instruments, is in the First Music. The Ents create sounds by using their wooden bodies, so in a way they have woodwinds and wooden percussion instruments, as Steimel notes (Steimel, 99). As one of the oldest races of Middle-earth, their music is very old and learned and like all their doings, takes a lot of time. It is interesting to note that Treebeard is able to instantly sing Entish songs in Westron, even though he hasn’t had any contact with Westron speakers for a long time and usually presumably sings in his own tongue. Even if he had contact, most people would hardly be interested in hearing Ent songs - he himself complains about the lack of feelings for the forest in most people, so it is unlikely that he very often before had to sing any song in Westron. Still he can at a moment’s notice. This again goes back to the influence of the First Music in Middle-earth: To be able to express oneself by means of song and music in the Common Tongue, and the desire to do so when prompted, seems to be a gift every culture possesses and may therefore well be part of the First Music and one of the many things set into being when it was made reality.